Terrence McNally’s Master Class, starring Amanda Muggleton as Maria Callas, is a performative experience like no other. Maria Callas enters the stage and quickly explains that “this is a classroom”, and we, the audience, are there to learn about the art of performing opera. The diva’s oozing charisma and blunt sarcasm draw the audience to her. Callas is a woman who clawed her way from nothing to become a successful performer but has dropped back to earth from her pedestal. Her knowledge of performing is infinite.
This show is an immersive experience. Maria Callas talks directly to the audience, schooling us in the rules of opera. Her first lesson: We must all have a look. As funny as her comments are, they are the truth. Aspiring performers need to be memorable, they need to have style and a certain sophistication. Her crass explanations and witty banter with her victims (other performers playing students) is a humorous and aurally pleasing way of learning more about the craft.
Through transportive moments of song, the audience discovers more about Maria Callas and her life. Projected images, snippets of the real Maria Callas performing at the height of her fame, are overlayed with monologue revealing key emotions and events in her life. Muggleton wowed in her role as Maria Callas. Her passion and conviction a hard shell protecting the remainders of herself. She is voiceless, unable to sing, something all performers pray will never happen to them.
Each of the students, Sophie (Kale Gare), Sharon (Jessica Boyd), and Tony (Rocco Speranza), are stopped several times through their lessons and it’s almost frustrating to never hear them sing without interruption but also fascinating how much knowledge Maria Callas supplies them about the pieces they are performing. Opening night featured a treat for the audience. Each of the students performed after the show finished and it was a wonderful addition to the show. I just hope other audiences are as lucky to experience their voices.
Master Class is a fascinating and exciting experience for those who enjoy opera, the art of performing, and Maria Callas’s history. One quote stayed with me after the show. “Never give anything away for free”. Performing is giving yourself to the audience every time you take the stage, and that should never be taken for granted.
Master Class is currently showing at the Subiaco Arts Centre in Perth but is continuing its national tour in the new year. For more information visit the Ticketek website.